ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams have played three games since losing quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury. Including a thoroughly dominant performance Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the Rams' defense has lived up to lofty preseason expectations in two of those contests.
Once again this week, everything the Rams wanted to do defensively began and ended with stopping the run. It's a task they were unable to accomplish against Tennessee last week but did well against Seattle. They did it even better against the Colts.
For a defense that has served as the tonic for teams in need of a rushing boost, holding the Colts to 18 rushing yards -- its second strong defensive outing in three games -- stemmed from plugging the Colts' attempts to run the ball.
"There have been too many times this year where teams have said, ‘Hey, we need to get back on track in the run game’ and they come in here with us knowing they are going to run and they’ve ran it well," middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "Dallas did that. Tennessee did that. That was too many. So hearing them say they wanted to run the ball and get back on track was motivation for us to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to put that fire out.’ If they were going to beat us they were going to throw it, and we were able to do that today."
Buoyed by that success stopping the run, the Rams were able to build a big lead, one that jumped as high as 38-0 in the third quarter. Given a big lead, and with the Colts having to play catch up, the Rams' dominant front four had an opportunity to do what it does best: get after the quarterback.
The Rams finished with three sacks but were in Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck's face for much of the day. It's not often the Rams get a big lead and get to rush the passer, but it was clear they knew what to do when they did Sunday.
"That’s what happens when you stop the run," defensive end Chris Long said. "That’s what we’re built to do is stop the run, get ahead and then we can play with leads pretty well on defense. Stopping the run was part of it, the offense did a great job and we really played a complete game."
It's still fair to wonder why the Rams have been unable to consistently play defense at that level this season, but twice in three weeks is at least a promising sign that things might finally be headed in that direction.
A roundup of Sunday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. … In the wee hours of the morning, we offered a look at the surprising move of Rodger Saffold from tackle to guard. … After the Rams' stunning win, we came with quick thoughts from the game in Rapid Reaction, followed by some thoughts from the team in Locker Room Buzz. … Finally, it was a closer look at Tavon Austin's breakthrough day and how it provides the Rams some hope for the rest of the season and beyond.
Our Cary Chow and Tom Waddle break down the Rams' victory.
Jim Thomas at stltoday.com provides his game story and running account of the Rams' win.
Joe Strauss' look at Austin's day.
At SI.com, Don Banks calls the Rams' win the most surprising result of the season.
In the same space, Chris Burke also looks at Austin.
And, continuing the Austin theme, NFL.com does the same.